The Daily Press is the city of Timmins broadsheet newspaper.
TIMMINS – Two members of the provincial Tory caucus left Timmins with a better understanding of the issues impacting Northern Ontario.
Progressive Conservative MPPs Norm Miller (Parry Sound-Muskoka) and Laurie Scott (Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock) were in Timmins Friday on a fact-finding tour. The two politicians met with Mayor Tom Laughren, municipal and business leaders, toured Goldcorp’s operations and visited with local Ministry of Natural Resources staff. Miller is the Tory critic for Northern Development and Mines, while Scott is the critic for the MNR.
The duo also visited The Daily Press, where they discussed pressing issues for the North in an editorial board meeting.
Many Northerners feel they have lost their voice in Queen’s Park, as only 11 of 107 seats are based in Northern Ontario. While he doesn’t expect the region to ever gain more seats, Miller said it is the responsibility of government to consider the impact all legislation has on the North.
“The No. 1 thing I have heard that all the Toronto-centric laws and policies being created don’t work in Northern Ontario,” he said. “People have a right to feel the way they do feel.
“Look at a number of the laws being passed, the Endangered Species Act (ESA) being an example and the Far North Act. These are laws that aren’t good for Northern Ontario and were passed by the Liberal government more to satisfy special interest groups than to serve Northern Ontario.”
He said that it “requires strong personalities in government” to consider the needs of Northern and rural Ontario.
The ESA threatens to cut back on wood harvesting in Northern Ontario forests, which cost jobs and impact communities built around the industry. Scott has introduced a private member’s bill, which she said would change the way government creates the legislation.
She said any land restrictions coming from the ESA should only come following a complete socio-economic analysis.
“If your forests are going to shut down, your towns are going to shut down,” she said. “You have to understand the repercussions of what you are going to do with habitat protection.”
Scott said these types of studies are just as important as the habitat data and government “should post it so people can see what the socio-economic analysis was” and provide input to correct any mistakes.
Miller said public and industry input has been lacking for another issue, the proposed divestiture of the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission.
“It was a shock the way it was announced without any consultation or warning,” he said. “Having a fire sale is not the right approach.
“There is a lot of uncertainty out there and it’s effecting businesses’ ability to plan. The government should be involving people and companies who depend on it, so they (business and industry) can make decisions based on knowledge, not on rumours.”
He said, however, his party’s plans do “not necessarily mean” keeping ONTC as a Crown corporation.
“We’re kind of in the middle, between the fire sale approach versus others who think the status quo is fine,” Miller said. “I don’t think the status quo is fine either.”
Scott said she can relate to frustrations Northerners feel with increased restrictions in access to Crown land and lakes. Some of her constituents in the Haliburton area are encountering the same problems.
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